Lama’s Kenpo Karate Returning to Cortland; Bernal Heights Ninjas Rejoice

Though it’s not the kind of thing we usually discuss publicly, this is a Golden Age for Bernal Heights ninjas.

First we got Brandan Lai’s super-convenient ninja supply boutique over on Mission Street. Now we’re getting a new karate school at 461 Cortland, in the space formerly occupied by Bernal Yoga.

Actually, we’re getting a karate school, again. The new studio will belong to Lama’s Kenpo Karate, which is returning to Bernal Heights after after a 10+ year hiatus. Founder Mo Lama — that’s Mo, smiling above — first opened his studio in Bernal Heights almost two decades ago. The studio’s website tells the creation story:

In 1986, Lama’s Kenpo Karate began as an idea to facilitate the art of Shaolin Kenpo to friends and family members in the Bernal Heights community as a way to build self-confidence, awareness, and self-defense. In the mid 80’s, the Bernal Heights neighborhood was known to have an above average crime rate, which included random assaults, robberies, and the selling of illegal drugs. It made walking the streets unsafe during any time of the day. Although, this was considered a rough neighborhood it was Professor Lama’s vision to share his knowledge in self-defense so that others may benefit.

Professor Lama first began teaching out of his own garage where he only had five students. The space was very limited, but Professor managed to teach katas and conduct sparring sessions in his 12’x18′ garage space. His motivation and combined passion for teaching encouraged him to open up his first formal karate studio in Bernal Heights. After four successful years in business, Lama’s Kenpo Karate expanded and moved into a larger location in Bernal Heights.

As enrollment increased at Lama’s Kenpo Karate, Sibok Lama moved the school to its present day location in San Bruno, Ca.

The San Bruno school will remain open, with a second branch re-opening in the space on Cortland, in a Bernal Heights that is much changed from 1986. Back then, Bernal was rough and scary. Today, celebrities and fashionistas wander the streets of Bernal Heights without hesitation or fear. The logical conclusion?  We have the local ninjas from Lama’s Kenpo Karate to thank for this.

Bernalwood is told that Mo Lama himself will be teaching at the Cortland location two days a week, with a pair of blackbelts who live in the neighborhood running the school the rest of the time. Great news, and welcome back to Cortland, Professor Lama!

Finally, we hope you will enjoy this inspiring recruitment video created on behalf of the Bernalwood Self-Defense Forces:

PHOTO: Top, Neighbor Mason. Below, Telstar Logistics

9 thoughts on “Lama’s Kenpo Karate Returning to Cortland; Bernal Heights Ninjas Rejoice

  1. Keep your third eye open. Bernal Yoga must too be acknowledged, for making the neighborhood a peace magnet for 10 years.

  2. Is there any relation between this gentleman and the Lama family that had a corner store back in the 70’s/80’s? (maybe they still do, but I moved out of the area in ’86).

    • Yes there is, that would be Professor’s father’s store you are referring too. Sadly, he recently passed away, but the family store remains.

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